THE DUNGEON by Lynne Reid Banks


Age Range: 12 & up
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Fourteenth-century Scottish laird Bruce MacLennan commissions a castle complete with dungeon, then embarks on a trip following the path of Marco Polo. MacLennan has suffered a tragedy at the hands of an enemy, revealed in full only near the story’s end, and he hopes to blunt his pain through travel. A fierce fighter, he quickly becomes part of a private army when he reaches China, where he also buys Peony, a young Chinese girl, to be his slave. The omniscient narrator then observes the child’s thoughts and emotions as she serves her seemingly cold-hearted master, encounters new lands and, on their return to Scotland, becomes friends with a stable boy. During their trip back, Banks (Harry the Poisonous Centipede’s Big Adventure, 2001, etc.) hints heavily that Peony might be softening MacLennan’s heart, and refers all too often to the tragic demise of his family. Intent on getting revenge, MacLennan throws himself and his people into an ill-considered attack on his enemy, then vents his rage at losing on Peony. The story moves along at a good clip with the excitement of travel and battle, combined with strong descriptive writing about China and Scotland. But MacLennan is so self-absorbed and has so little regard for Peony as a person that, even with the full revelation of his tragedy, readers will have a hard time finding him sympathetic. Peony, though far more agreeable, seems distant and, especially at the conclusion, romanticized. Nevertheless, those who don’t object to some melodrama, may enjoy the journey and the ample historical detail. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-06-623782-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2002


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